India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday opened a Himalayan tunnel that will drastically reduce the time needed to rush troops to the country’s remote Chinese border as tensions grow between the Asian neighbours. The tunnel traverses India’s northern Himachal Pradesh state and lies on one of two main routes for troops headed to border areas in Ladakh.
Indian and Chinese troops were killed in June during a deadly clash in Ladakh, which shares a disputed boundary with China’s restive Xinjiang and Tibet regions. The two nuclear-armed countries have since rushed tens of thousands of additional troops and weapons to the area, and have been locked in a tense stand-off for months.
The $400-million, nine-kilometre (six miles) tunnel will cut the journey by about 50 kilometres (30 miles) and four hours, enabling travellers to bypass a tricky route across a landslide-prone Himalayan pass. The tunnel, at an altitude of more than 3,000 metres (10,000 feet), has been hailed as a feat of engineering.